Mar-Mac PD addresses EMS traffic issues in bridge construction zone

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On April 2, the Mar-Mac Police Department was notified of a public post on social media that claimed an area ambulance—the night before—had traveled through red light traffic signals and into the one-lane construction zone on the U.S. Highway 18 bridge between Marquette and Prairie du Chien, where it met oncoming west bound traffic. 

Mar-Mac Police Chief Robert Millin released a response on April 3, noting that the incident addresses a potential issue for discussion with area public safety officials: How should an emergency management service (EMS) transporting a patient to the Prairie du Chien medical facility while operating as an emergency vehicle proceed through the one-lane construction zone? How should the affected motorists respond?

Initially, said Millin, it was suggested in the event of an emergency transport to the Prairie du Chien medical facility, or when mutual aid from EMS was requested, that law enforcement would be notified and a coordinated effort to control the movement of traffic in the construction zone would begin to provide the ambulance a direct route through the construction zone. 

On April 2, at approximately 2:47 p.m., that plan was enacted. The police department was notified traffic control would be requested for an EMS transport through the construction zone. At the time of the notification, the department was advised the ambulance would arrive in three minutes. With the immediate arrival of the ambulance, the police department and the Prairie du Chien Police Department orchestrated the stoppage of traffic through the construction zone to allow the ambulance direct access.

But during this temporary closure, said Millin, “additional information was omitted from the law enforcement agencies, causing confusion from miscommunication and a significant delay in stopping traffic in excess of several minutes, resulting in stopped motorists becoming inpatient and failing to obey the direction of a law enforcement officer by going around the parked patrol vehicle with its emergency lights activated.”

Due to this experience; the inability to communicate simultaneously and directly with other public safety agencies due to technological incompatibilities; and the safety of law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and motorists, Millin said the Mar-Mac Police Department will no longer provide traffic control for emergency transportation through and during the U.S. Highway 18 construction project unless specifically requested by a Wisconsin law enforcement agency.

During construction, EMS agencies are encouraged to review and consider alternative medical facilities and methods of transportation, or utilize mutual aid with an advanced emergency medical service based on the nature of the call with respect to their medical experience. In the event transporting a patient to the Prairie du Chien medical facility is the direct option for immediate medical care, EMS agencies are encouraged to utilize the traffic control devices directing traffic through the construction zone, Millin stated. If the traffic control device is illuminating a red light, the EMS agency should safely maneuver to the traffic light and remain stationary with their emergency lights and siren activated until the traffic control device illuminates a green light to safely proceed through the construction zone.

“With the arrival of an ambulance transporting a patient with a medical emergency, motorists should safely move over to the side of the road to allow the ambulance to proceed to the beginning of the construction zone,” he added. “After the traffic control device illuminates a green light, motorists should allow the ambulance immediate access through the construction zone.”

If a motorist is traveling through the construction zone and is approached from the rear by an ambulance with its emergency lights and siren activated, Millin said motorists should safely continue through the construction zone. Upon exiting the construction zone, motorists should immediately pull over to allow the ambulance to continue its emergency transport.

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